The merger of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards came as no shock to me. As CIO, I was part of the team that green-lighted the deal. But one downside to possessing advance knowledge of a merger is that you can’t tell anyone. This places the early stage of due diligence (tracking down software licenses and contracts with telecom and hardware vendors) on your shoulders, and you have to do it without tipping off the rest of your staff.
I had known PeopleSoft CIO David Thompson for years. Not only were we colleagues who had visited each other’s companies, we were friends. So we both had a pretty good sense of how the other’s departments ran. That allowed us to get the merger moving that much faster.
Eventually, of course, you have to start telling a few of your people. (And I had had enough 24-hour workdays.) David and I had a plan to link parts of the infrastructures in stealth mode so that the two companies would have lines of communication open when the merger was announced. On both sides, we had about a dozen people working on connecting the e-mail systems and Web content.
When the news broke in spring 2003, PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway left a voice mail for all J.D. Edwards employees, explaining the merger. J.D. Edwards CEO Bob Dutkowsky left a message for all PeopleSoft employees. I had 370 IT employees at the time; PeopleSoft had about the same. There was great anticipation among employees about how the cultures were going to mix. There was also great anxiety.
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Because PeopleSoft was buying a majority of the stock, it was more the acquirer than acquiree. That put the burden on me and my staff to make the case for why J.D. Edwards’ approach or system would be a better fit for the newly merged company. Sometimes, however, no system is better than another. They’re just different. And in a dead heat, the acquiring company is going to keep what it’s already familiar with.
As far as who would be CIO, David and I talked about that from day one. One strike against me was that I felt the CIO needed to be colocated with management in PeopleSoft’s California headquarters and I was sure that I did not want to move out of Colorado.
Technically, I didn’t know what my role was going to be until I received my termination notice. But there was plenty of warning along the way. As time wore on, David was driving more of the decision making. In summer 2003, he was named CIO.
All along, David and I had focused on making the merger a success, regardless of who was going to be the CIO. Though I haven’t spoken to him in a while, I know that the merger wouldn’t have been as successful if we hadn’t had a solid relationship. We made it work, and he and I both moved on.
—As told to Thomas Wailgum